The announcement of Microsoft Teams is the next step in making work easy to find and engage in. We can all relate to the challenges of managing the high volumes of communication we receive, or finding and filing documents and information we work on. It can get overwhelming. When you work in an organization where the email culture is strong and historic, you have to summon all of our Outlook ninja skills to keep on top of email. You hop from tool to tool and from one information architecture to the next. We become accustomed to changing, but the pauses and decisions add up in the day. By the end of the day, simple actions such as "where do I file this?" or finding that conversation get slower and slower.
Microsoft have been working on simplifying collaboration, on a number of fronts. I think when Office 365 Groups was released in 2014, it was a return to communication, collaboration and coordination around the core of work - people. People work in project groups, teams and departments, towards a common goal. They use tools and software to work towards those goals. With Office 365 Groups, the focus is more on the people and content and less on the tools and software. It's goal is to provide a place that is easy to communicate with people, find and work on content and coordinate activities, without thinking much about the tools being used. Leveraging and adding to Office 365 Groups, Microsoft Teams is the next step in this vision.
Earlier in 2016, BitTitan was invited to be one of the first customers to use Microsoft Teams. We knew it first as Skype Teams. The Skype heritage and persistent chat were plain to see. I have invited team members Jethro Seghers and Kelsey Epps to share their thoughts on how Microsoft Teams has been used in our team and organization.
A big part of my job is educating people, people all over the world. The team I work with is based in Singapore, New Zealand, UK, Europe, Mexico, US and Canada. Most education happens structural, we setup group trainings and through Skype for business we record the session. The recording afterwards gets uploaded into video portal and everyone gets a link. Since the company is growing at record speed, I have to send out the link every time when somebody needs it, most trainings have training material attached to it. Unfortunately the video portal does not allow me to add collateral to the recording. With Microsoft Teams, I can create a channel per product where all the training materials and collateral are stored.
Unfortunately training never stops, I answer question on a very fast adhoc pace but again, I don’t like to answer the same question over and over again. With Microsoft teams, anyone can just go into the right channel, search for the question and see what the answer is without me having to go over it over and over again. Sometimes a question needs more context, the chat possibility allows me to get a lot of information almost in real time as in Skype For Business but more organized and stored centrally per topic per product.
Microsoft Teams has become my primary communication platform to communicate with my team. Thanks to the notifications, tags and mentions me, I know exactly when somebody has a question of when certain interaction is required.
I feel like we have only scratched the surface of Teams. When Microsoft first asked us to use the product in a beta, I was very skeptical and didn’t see the value. When we were mandated to switch to teams for all our internal communication, I immediately saw a drop in the number of low priority emails clogging up my inbox. I was able to better focus on the high priority emails and service my customers better.
Teams is the primary platform that we use for our team communication; it quickly brings everyone together to collaborate and communicate. It is really a great wrapper service/app that pulls together the Microsoft Office 365 backend services. Even though we have only been using for a few months, I feel like we cannot go back. I am really excited to see where Microsoft is taking Teams and I discover new and cool things everyday.
When I joined BitTitan I under estimated the amount of learning it would take to on-board and become productive in my Partner Technical Strategist role. There was an immense amount of knowledge transfer on the business and technical sides. A big part of my job is to help our partners align our services and solutions to their day to day operations. This is a really hard task in a company that is growing at an amazing rate, releasing product updates and features daily and so many new faces. I had to figure out how to keep up with this along with doing my day to day job. Microsoft Teams has streamlined this task and I am able to reclaim valuable time.
Using Microsoft Teams over time, I have been able to focus more on my work. In my day I set aside time to work on a project or event with a team. I open the team and in one place, I have all the conversations, files, notes and tasks related to the work. I can catch up with discussions, chat in real time or elevate the conversation to a call or meeting with an individual or any of the team that are online. Microsoft Teams takes the guess work out of where to store files. If I attach a file to a conversation in a Team and channel, it's stored in the underlying SharePoint Team Site, for the whole team to access. If I start a chat with an individual and attach a file, it is uploaded to my OneDrive and shared from there with the person I'm chatting with. No need to go through the process of uploading and setting permissions. Like Office 365 Groups, I can use Connectors to bring in other feeds of information for awareness and team discussion.
One of the powerful aspects of Microsoft Teams is that all these collaborative activities can be performed from within the application. Switching from an IM conversation to a video meeting, taking notes together during the call, attaching a document and working on it, opening up a plan and list of tasks; can all be achieved within Microsoft Teams without losing the context of the conversation or losing focus on the work. I'm not changing from application to application, or switch to a document repository in an intranet site. I just get on with the work and continue the discussion in whatever modality that takes.
The thing about Microsoft Teams is you get more out of it when you immerse yourself in it. If your team is only going to use it as a persistent instant message platform, sure you will reduce the amount of email you receive but you're missing out on so much more.
Now remember, Microsoft Teams is in Preview. You can get started using it, but some things in Teams still need improvements. That's what a Preview is for. We take an active role in shaping the software through our feedback.
- If you're already using Office 365, find out how to turn Microsoft Teams on in your organization.
- Join the Microsoft Tech Community and discuss Microsoft Teams with the product group who are working on it, and your peers that are testing and implementing Teams. You'll find the discussions in the Microsoft Teams community space over at techcommunity.microsoft.com
- Give your feedback about Microsoft Teams on their UserVoice site. You can visit directly from the Microsoft Teams application or website.